By Richard Wilkins, Provincial Specialist, Pesticide Regulatory
Building positive neighbourly relationships in agricultural communities is important. Conventional growers, organic growers, conservationists, livestock producers, beekeepers, and other agriculture stakeholders share and reinforce our traditional prairie values, such as trust, openness, helpfulness, and mutual respect. Whether agricultural producers come from the organic side or the conventional side of the sector, one thing is consistent: all producers want to bring safe, high-quality products to market and provide for their families.
The FieldWatch program is an indispensable tool that aids in protecting sensitive crops and land while fostering communication between growers and custom pesticide applicators.
I’m the data steward for the FieldWatch program in Saskatchewan. My primary role is the review and approval of sites submitted to FieldWatch for the jurisdiction of Saskatchewan. I also promote the program to our producers and applicators in the province to create awareness and increase uptake of the program. I see the value in this program on a daily basis. This program covers all the bases—crop production, pollinator protection (bees) and applicator services—and provides the opportunity for communication and collaboration between all of these groups to keep our agricultural sector moving forward.
FieldWatch is a benefit to producers of specialty crops (certified organic, fruits, and vegetables) and custom pesticide applicators. The program is simple in concept and application; producers create an account on the FieldWatch website and map their fields using the Google maps platform. Applicators register with the program to gain access to this information, which helps them plan their activities for the day. Beekeepers can also participate in this program and map their apiaries in the same fashion.
Prior to heading out to the job site, an applicator can check the website to see if there are any sensitive areas in close proximity to their work area. If there are, they can take the necessary precautions to protect the integrity of all crops in the area and plan their work accordingly.
FieldWatch has also increased its investment in technology. Now, if applicators are entering an area with a sensitive site in the vicinity, a notification will be sent to their phone. FieldWatch is focused on app development, and the people behind it are investing a lot of time and energy in the accessibility of their platform and increasing its functionality, particularly on app-based platforms.
The program has also grown to the point that it is now being integrated into some manufacturers’ equipment. Major players in the ag sector see the value of this program and are incorporating it into their operating platforms.
We know that applicators use the website, as a lot of aerial application companies have registered with the program. Applicators want information like this. Applicators want to do the right thing.
Aerial applicators are required to carry insurance as part of their operational activities and a drift event impacts their bottom line. They want to operate in the safest and most economic manner possible.
This program helps them accomplish all of those aspects and find out where sensitive sites are so they can make contact with producers and learn about the intricacies of the area.
In 2018, there were about 1,400 sites registered with the program. Most of those (900) were beekeepers. Approximately 400 sites were sensitive sites, organic, transitioning to organic, fruit crops, and vegetable crops. So how does an organic producer or a fruit and vegetable producer register with the program and get their site on the system? There’s a video tutorial on the web that I share with people; it takes about 10 minutes to complete the tutorial and about five minutes to actually register for the program.
Producers and applicators can register for and use the program for free. The first step is to check out the Fieldwatch website. For producers, make sure you have your postal code to find your area or have your latitude and longitude (there are web-based applications that can easily convert your legal land description to latitude and longitude). Ministry personnel are available to help, should you need it.
I would encourage both specialty producers and applicators to participate in the program. Building the user base at both ends makes it more valuable to all players in the game. The more producers that are involved, the more value the applicators find in it, and vice versa.